Public historic gravestone preservation workshop this weekend


Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown (WBOY Image)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Preserving history is no easy task, but Monument Cleaning and Repair (MCR) is hoping to do its part to help preserve history through a public workshop.

MCR, according to its Treasurer and Secretary Janet Devault, is a volunteer group whose mission is to help maintain, repair and clean cemetery stones. This weekend, Sept. 18-19, MCR will partner with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia to sponsor a free, two-day historic gravestone preservation workshop with Atlas Preservation

The workshop is open to anyone who wants to attend. The location will be at the Historic Oak Grove Cemetery located near Don Knotts Blvd. in Morgantown.

Oak Grove Cemetery

“During the workshop, we will be learning to conserve marble gravestones, and we will conserve, stabilize, and clean a group of gravestones and monuments,” an MCR press release stated. “We will be working directly on the grounds of the cemetery, in which all of the most common conditions encountered will be discussed, and the conservation treatments will be conducted which are representative of what is most common at the cemetery.”

The workshop will be absolutely free and run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days.

Offering the public free services is, very much, in line with the work MCR does, Devault said.

There are a lot of small family cemeteries that are overwhelmingly in need of care and the nonprofit is “more than willing to help with that, to explain how it’s done, to go help fix things”.

“We will, pretty much, go anywhere within a reasonable drive of Morgantown, someone just needs to get in touch and make arrangements,” Devault said.  “If we don’t have a commitment like that, then two of us normally meet at Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown on Dorsey Ave. most Saturday mornings at 9 o’clock. It’s about a three-acre area, so not too huge and we have just been working since 2018, to clean monuments and repair what we can.”

Oak Grove Cemetery

Devault said MCR “could certainly use volunteers” because there is a lot of work to be done on local cemeteries and the job is not easy.

“So, having someone else with us is always helpful if we’re trying to write a stone or do anything that requires more labor than just the cleaning,” she said.

Anyone wanting to be a volunteer, or to learn more about MCR’s services can call Devault directly to learn more. Her number is 304-276-1109.

“They can also email us or reach our Facebook page, which is probably one and the same because you can email directly from there,” Devault said. “And that is Monument Cleaning and Repair in Morgantown. And, we do try to post upcoming events and items of interest there. But we’re more than happy to talk to folks.”

Devault said even if you miss the upcoming workshop, or are not available when MCR can come and clean a monument, there’s still another option.

The nonprofit can teach individuals or groups how to clean tombstones so they can get the job done on their own.

“We’re more than happy to help,” Devault said. “We’ll meet with them at a local cemetery and show them how to clean, show them where to get these supplies inexpensively. It is particular, it’s not difficult work, but you do have to do it right, or you can cause damage, so we’re more than happy to educate. If a group got together and wanted us to come and speak with them, we’d be happy to do.”

Oak Grove Cemetery

Devault said she and other volunteers are more than happy to help because they understand that these monuments are of historical significance. Plus, she said, each of them means something personal to someone out there.

“There’s a lot of history in Morgantown that is being lost, were perhaps unknown to people,” Devault said. “It’s not – as we get older we learn to appreciate what has gone before us and what it took to get our country where we are today. Oak Grove Cemetery is important to me because some of the folks are interred there who no longer have family in the area. And, there’s no one looking out for their burial places. Similarly, folks that have either inherited or know of a small family plot. Those are not often taken care of carefully. Sometimes, sadly, both types of places can be vandalized and need repair.”

Devault continued.

“And, it’s not an easy thing to just do a Google search and find how you get someone to come out and fix something for you, so we do it because we love being outside. We do it to help preserve the history and we don’t charge for our time.”

Devault said MCR primarily relies on private donors and self-funding.

Thankfully, she said, the Monongalia Historical Society helped MCR get off its feet, and for that the nonprofit is grateful.

Oak Grove Cemetery

Now, MCR is in the process of raising more funds so it can buy new equipment with which it can help a lot more people.

“We are trying to put funds aside right now to purchase an aluminum tripod, which is much more able to be adjusted on, especially when you’re working on a slope, trying to lift the weight of a stone and get a better foundation under it and straighten it up,” Devault said. “Using the type of tripod that we have right now, which is — it’s feasible on flatland, but it’s basically made of two by fours, so adjustability is a big issue for that. And so, we’re trying to save about $2500 to purchase a tripod and we could really use help in that regard. That’s a big expense for a group without funding.”

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